What do I want to be when I grow up?

It’s a bad question to ask, especially to a 6 year old. Click here to read why…

Still, I’d like to share some silly answers I came up with when I was young, and how this led me to decide on what I do today…

6 years old

What do I want to be? Hmm… What can I be?

An engineer? My dad is an engineer. But I don’t know what he does.

A fireman? A policeman? My mom says those jobs don’t make money, and if you don’t have money you don’t have food and clothes. I like having food and clothes.

A ninja turtle? I like Ninja turtles. But I think I want to be master splinter

(Master Splinter is that large, wise rat who taught the Ninja Turtles everything they knew. Pictured above)

8 years old

I spent my waking hours with Lego and other toys. I felt I knew how to make toys kids like me would like to buy (mostly because I didn’t know too many kids). So I figuredI would be a toy creator. The choice was simple!

10 years old

I fell in love with bugs in my garden. I hunted down, and captured a lot of insects, butterflies, spiders… I had this toy microscope and these fishtanks to keep my prey! My greatest achievement was keeping a caterpillar, and watching it become a butterfly. It made sense to me, that I would be an entomologist! (I picked up that term from a book in my house, and swung it around like a broadsword because for once, I knew a word no one else knew) Entomologist! Entomologist! Hah!

13 years old

I eventually grew out of all that, and accepted “I don’t know” as a pretty good answer. Until I got bitten by the ambition bug again…

16 years old

I was at education fairs, and researching university course syllabus online, finding a path to prepare me to become a creative director of an advertising agency. I loved visuals, words, ideas, and new ways of doing things… besides, a friend had a 32 year old uncle who was rich and cool, he was a creative director of an ad agency. I imagined the job to be fun, I could dress funky, and get paid well.

18 years old

But something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t satisfied with advertising products/ services. I wanted to invent them, too. But I didn’t have time to think this through… enrollment for college courses had datelines.

So, I chose Taylor’s College American Degree Program because I could explore other interests, and it bought me time to stay undecided.

I spent time reading up again. I learnt marketing gave me a bigger picture of advertising, and entrepreneurship gave me the excitement of invention. So I leapt onto that boat, to Sydney. I wanted to be a entrepreneur.

20 years old

Starting a business was one interest, but I also thought a lot about building it, and running it. How can I be really good at running organizations, too?

Fate had it, I shared a dinner table with a former McKinsey management consultant. He convinced me that if McKinsey produced 70+ of the fortune 500 CEO’s, that’s where I should go to learn business better than anyone else. So I aimed to work with in elite management consultancy.

21 years old

I was off to San Francisco to study entrepreneurship and management in depth. Best business practices, managing people… then something changed, once again.

Deeper study of entrepreneurship led me to ponder the “why” and “how” of businesses. I began to have these crazy ideas of how the future of work would look like for talented, creative, top-performers, who have a fiery passion for what they do.

I figured that since work takes up so much of our lives, it shouldn’t be too stressful… I grew up hearing older people complain about work, and warning about suffering in the “working world”, or some even call it “the real world”.. (???)

That’s not the way work should be.

I decided I would build a new kind of working environment, where people sincerely enjoyed the work they did, not because of the pay or benefits, not because of the “prestige”, or other consolation prizes. People should be proud of their role in society, and their love for their contribution (a.k.a work) was deep, and real.

I loved the idea of social entrepreneurship, too, running a business that makes money, and has social impact (not necessarily in terms of save the trees kind of impact, but how it affects the way the world works kinda way)

I admired IDEO. I admired Google. They boasted such work cultures, and inspired others to do the same.

So how do I begin?

My gut told me to start a revolution where it needed one the most… in doing so, I turned down an opportunity to do a PhD with a professor in San Francisco. I turned down a internship opportunity in New York.

I got my ass back to Malaysia, and I was, once again, left to my own devices, finding my own way. I experimented with Project Bazooka. And thought that if I don’t think of something soon enough, I would work in a elite management consultancy to learn more.

22 years old

Enter Mike, Vishen, and MindValley. Same ideals. Love your work, or don’t do it. Work with people you can learn from. Build an organization that changes lives. No overtime, or working thru the weekend.

I’m still with MindValley today, our company is growing in revenues, and we’re recruiting like-minded people…

But this story takes a twist.

Last month, I was invited for an entrance exam in McKinsey (based on my participation in a leadership workshop for Malaysia’s top students)

If I scored well, I would get interviewed, and who knows, wear a tie and cut my hair for once. Mike thinks if consider I taking the exam, I’ll be buttoned up in a suit soon enough.

Is that a good idea? I actually look good in a tie, mind you.

Working with all the smart people at McKinsey gives me great exposure and learning. The name in itself would add credibility for future endeavors. I might even meet some smart girls.

But leave MindValley? Why deviate if I’m already on my way? I’m engaged in building a company, I love the people I work with, I’m applying my brain to nutty problems, still have time for side projects, music, writing, hanging out with friends…

McKinsey and MindValley are two possible routes out of many, especially if I intend to realize my silly plans (which I’m sure will change)

Such questions messed me up for a month, shaking my sense of self, introducing doubt and indecision… but after some deep reflection, it seems I’ve had the answer all along.

Nevertheless, my challenge with decision-making, is living up to it, and not getting friggin’ distracted.

I also don’t believe in doing things half-hearted, and I don’t like starting something without giving it my best. So I told McKinsey I may knock on their door some other time, perhaps.

I just sent that email an hour ago.

Some people I know won’t understand why, but that’s okay. Ambitions like “I want to
e Master Splinter when I grow up” tend to come across as unrealistic.

What’s more, there really isn’t one set path to being a mutant rat, training up 4 turtle-like martial art experts to alleviate New York’s crime.

Do wish me luck!

And all the best with your decisions, too.

One comment on “What do I want to be when I grow up?

  1. tobias November 2, 2006 2:04 am

    man, you really think about stuff, if i was you i would’ve probably never turned down that opportunity, too good a chance to miss out on. but on the other hand, here i am, 24 years old and still not a clue about when and what i want to do next and i can honestly admit that i hardly think things and opportunities through, more of the jump on and off of whatever it might be kind of person…
    now i’ll stick to copenhagen for some time and then it’s time to see what opportunity appears around the corner next time…

    however, good luck on your future endeavors!

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